Enfant terrible and MasterChef extraordinaire Marco Pierre White sat down for a chat with Teresa Ooi.
“The simplest dish, cooked well and using great local ingredients, will create love round the dining table.”
So says Marco Pierre White, the original bad boy of British cooking. He was the youngest-ever chef to be awarded three Michelin stars, at the age of 33, only to hand them back five years later because “maintaining three stars is pretty boring.”
He is probably best known to Australian audiences as a judge on MasterChef Australia, but White has many more strings to his bow.
The celebrity chef has worked with P&O UK since 2008 – first as a consultant to Britannia where he curated a brand new menu, then as a teacher hosting cooking classes and now, at the ripe old age of 57, he has been anointed patron of The Cookery Club on Britannia.
Ahead of White’s expansion of his portfolio of successful restaurants to Australia, we sat down with him to talk about luxury cooking, luxury cruising and most important of all, some of the best meals he’s ever tasted.
You’ve travelled all over the world, what is your favourite holiday destination and why? I love Lisbon, Sydney, Melbourne, Barcelona, Valencia and most Italian ports. I am happy when I’m surrounded by friends and great restaurants. By great I mean those which serve good, honest, authentic dishes. They don’t need to be fancy and most of them are not; just fresh local food served very simply, letting the ingredients shine through.
As an inveterate traveller, what is your favourite cruise line and why? I’m the patron of The Cookery Club for P&O Cruises UK. The best part of cooking with P&O Cruises UK is showing people how to create the most beautiful and delicious dishes at home and imparting some of the skills I have learnt over the past 40 years. As The Cookery Club has individual cooking stations in a state-of-the-art environment, it allows me to work closely and individually with each person to help them create restaurant-quality food at home. I have been working with P&O Cruises UK for almost 12 years and I am very proud of the relationship. I love the concept of cruising; the ships really are just giant resorts at sea, with something for everyone. The thing which impresses me the most is that with P&O Cruises nothing is too much trouble for the crew, they all have a great attitude. I’d love them to be working with me.
How do you personally define luxury in a holiday? Luxury is the time to enjoy your surroundings.
What is the most luxurious cruise you have? My very favourite dining experience when I am on board with P&O Cruises UK is eating outside at night, particularly on the terrace of Epicurean on Azura and Ventura. Sitting under the stars is wonderful and the dishes are of a consistently high standard with great variety.
What can you tell us about your onboard food offerings? My passion for using fresh ingredients of sound provenance continues with P&O Cruises UK and the innovative Gala Evening menus are a treat for all. I also have the Ocean Grill restaurant on Arcadia – a classic steak and seafood eatery given the Marco twist, with dishes skilfully prepared and presented by my team on board.
What onboard food options say ‘luxury’? The very best seafood and the very best beef. Quality always shines through.
What do you think of Australian food and ingredients?
The seafood and fish is spectacular and the freshness of the vegetables and fruit from the land is always phenomenal.
What are the latest food trends? I think the days of fussy, overcomplicated dishes are limited. Simple food, prepared exquisitely, can never be beaten.
What is the best meal you’ve ever had at sea? Some of my favourite traditional dishes are celebrated in the five-course menu onboard P&O Cruises UK. Dishes such as dressed Devonshire crab and scallop ceviche; classic beef Wellington with a wild mushroom and Madeira duxelle; New England half-split lobster with a Mornay sauce; poached Hampshire Chalk Stream trout with caper mayonnaise; Champagne sorbet; and orange-scented savarin with summer berries.
What are your tips for cooking a luxurious meal at home? Keep it simple. Buy the best ingredients you can afford, don’t complicate it and let the flavours shine through.
Is there one cruise everyone should do at least once a lifetime? The Fjords in the summer is spectacular.
What is one thing you never travel without? My phone, it’s literally my mobile office.